Have you heard? The American Psychological Association says that taking an excessive amount of selfies is now considered a mental disorder. But of course this claim, which predictably spread like Kardashian wedding news on social media channels this weekend, is completely false.
It was the hoax we all wanted to be real. It was vindication that certain annoying people in our lives who post non-stop pics of themselves and flood our Facebook feeds with them were, in fact, crazy.
But not only is “Selfitis” not a true disorder, claiming that it’s a negative behavior may actually be a blow to feminists who hold that the selfie is young female empowerment. Selfie proponents assert that labeling the practice as a disorder is just one more way to call women crazy for being proud of themselves.
Constantly posting self-taken pictures on social media is an annoying practice to many, and may actually hurt your reputation. Over at Jezebel, writer Erin Gloria Ryan says taking a ton of selfies is a cry for help — a narcissistic indulgence that only proves how wrapped up in ourselves we’ve become in this great online mess.
But certain feminist circles argue that selfies could lead to helping young women stand out and have more confidence later in life. The discussion and #feministselfies tag even took over the Twittersphere for a hot second late last year.
Feminist online news site Bustle also rebuffs the notion that selfies are an anti-social behavior. It affirms instead that they’re about empowerment for women, particularly when it comes to battling unrealistic ideals, helping with body acceptance, and empowering women of color.
In a Today “Ideal to Real” body image survey, over 65% of young women surveyed said selfies gave them more self-confidence.
Slate’s Rachel Simmons asks us to consider the selfie as “a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self.” It’s something boys are often encouraged to do and girls are often discouraged to do in modern society.
Even beyond the disorder discussion is the fear that young women don’t understand how they come across with up-close “duckface” and cleavage shots plastered all over their Instagram feeds.
Again, Simmons chimes in on this with a reaffirmation that the selfie is young female empowerment:
Pity the teenage girl. As with sex and hooking up, we assume there is only one motivation, and it’s a bad one. Girls are perennial victims and the culture always perpetuates this. …All girls sext because they’re clueless and stupid—not because some have figured out how to leverage the tools of social media to play at sex without having it.
And all girls post selfies because they’re desperate for others to fill the beauty-affirmation void left by a ruthless media. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Okay, some “Selfitics” may actually have a problem. Teen Danny Bowman (the son of two psychologists) confesses that he would take up to 200 photos a day. He said the obsession led him to suicidal thoughts and an attempt on his life because he couldn’t get the pictures quite right.
However, Bowman seems to be the extreme exception. Some might even say he had something closer to body dysmorphic disorder versus whatever we’d call the selfie disorder.
It’s easy dismiss those who post a lot of pictures of themselves on social media as bonkers. But could it be that this is just one more attempt at marginalizing young women for doing anything that upsets societal norms?